For your money you shall be saved
God doesn’t need money
but a lot of religions sure ask for a lot of it, and make people feel guilty if they don’t give, even if they can’t afford it.
There were three preachers discussing the collection plate and how they determine what portion of the money is God’s and what portion is theirs. The first preacher said, “I draw a line in the middle of the floor and throw the money in the air, what lands on the side closest to me is mine and what lands on the other side is God’s”
The second preacher said, “I have a similar method, I draw a circle in the middle of the room and throw all of the money into the air and what lands in the circle is God’s and the rest is mine.”
The third preacher said, “I just throw all of the money in the air and figure whatever God wants he’ll take.”
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this episode is on the subject of religions that demand or require people to give a specific amount of money in order to be in good standing or those that tell people that their salvation or right standing with God is dependent upon giving money to the church, and/or those institutions that mishandle, waste or get rich on the money that the membership is compelled to give.
I am not against giving money to a church, and in fact, I think it is a good idea, I just take issue when people are compelled to give or are told that their salvation depends on them giving a specific amount, or any amount at all, or when they are told that they will receive a specific blessing for giving a specific dollar amount, especially when they are in a position where they can’t afford to give. Giving money to a church would be considered a good work, and we are saved by grace through faith and not of works, least any man should boast as the Bible says in Ephesians 2:9. The only thing we contribute to our salvation is the sin that made it necessary in the first place. Anyone who tells you that you have to give money in order to be saved or to be right with God is lying to you.
I give to my church and to other religious or charitable organizations, but I will never again align myself with any church that demands it or makes membership conditional upon giving. I look at it this way, if you get something positive out of going to church than you should contribute. Most people don’t think it is a big deal to spend money going to a sporting event, a movie, museum, or other venues, yet they balk at giving to a church, even if they attend every week and have a positive experience, but than again, once you have paid your $15.00 to see a movie they don’t pass around a collection plate or demand more money in order to see the rest of the film. If you are attending Church and getting something out of it, and let’s be honest, there is no reason to attend if you aren’t getting something out of it, than you should contribute to keep the lights on and what not.
The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 9:7, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Yes, this is saying that we should give and that we should not do so reluctantly, but a lot of churches seam to miss the part that says we are not to give under compulsion. When a person is told that his or her salvation or right standing with God is tied to their giving they are being compelled to give. I also don’t think that churches compel people to give out of concern for their soul but rather out of a lust for money, and there are certainly many examples of churches that love money more than people, and such a thing is not pleasing to God.
“When I die don’t bury me deep but leave one hand free to fleece the sheep”
Candy Johnson (Clark Gable) in Honky Tonk, also the way some religious leaders views their congregation.
I am convinced that the reason most people are uncomfortable when a church starts talking about money is because of all of the churches that have millionaire preachers who are always asking for more money from the congregation, often more than they can afford to give, sometimes promising the sick, the lame and the blind healing if they will give, only to later tell them the reason they were not healed is because they did not have enough faith. I have a few perfect examples of the type of religious leaders that take every opportunity to fleece the sheep and make them think it is for their own good, even if it is in the middle of the winter when they need the wool to keep from freezing.
Mike Murdock, televangelist and pastor of The Wisdom Center ministry based in Haltom City, Texas, asked for people to put a thousand dollars on their credit cards and promised that if they would do so God would wipe out their credit card debt if they had enough faith. Mr. Murdock, to his credit, was at leas honest about what he was going to use all of that seed money for and said, “I had enough money to buy a beautiful Cessna Citation jet – cash! And, since there’s so much jealousy in this room tonight that I can feel over this: a few weeks later, I bought another one worth three times what that one was – cash! Act happy over my blessings, folks!” (1). That is not a blessing, that is a con artist robbing the poor and needy by promising them blessings for giving their money to him.
In one of his sermons Henry Fernandez, the senior Pastor of the Faith Center Ministries in Sunrise, Florida said, “All you’ve got is a thousand dollars. Listen, that’s not enough money, anyway, to buy the house. You trying to get in the apartment, you trying to buy the house; that’s not enough money, anyway. You get to that phone and you put that seed in the ground and watch God work it out!”(2).
Gloria Copland from Victory Broadcast Network suggested to a cancer patient that instead of going to the hospital and spending their money there that they should have faith and give the money to the church and expect God to heal the cancer, (1).
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, commonly referred to as the Mormon Church because of their belief in The Book of Mormon, teaches that in order to go to the highest level of heaven one must attend the temple, and one of the many requirements that must be met in order to be considered worthy enough to go to the temple is to give a full 10% of your income to the church, along with fast offerings, missionary offerings and other offerings. The Mormon Church is basically telling its members that in order to be saved they must buy their way into heaven by giving at least ten percent of his or her income. The Church even councils its members to give ten percent of their money when doing so will make it so they can’t buy food or pay their rent, (3). There have been many, many General Conference talks on giving money to the church, especially when you can’t afford to do so.
Gordon B. Hinkley, the 15th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints said, “We hear some these days who say that because of economic pressures they cannot afford to pay their tithing. I recall an experience I had as a stake president some years ago. A man whom I knew came to get his temple recommend signed. I questioned him in the usual way and asked, among other things, whether he was paying an honest tithing. He candidly replied that he was not, that he could not afford to because of his many debts. I felt impressed to tell him that he would not pay his debts until he paid his tithing,” (4).
I was a member of the LDS Church for a lot of years and followed all of the rules, and there were times when I had to choose between paying rent and buying food and paying tithing, but in order to be obedient I paid my tithing first, and as a result, I suffered greatly. In order to survive I then had to ask the church for help, and they did agree to give me some food on the condition that I would volunteer at the Church’s thrift store for twenty hours per week, even though I was working full-time and at the same time was a full-time student. I only accepted help from the Church for a few weeks before taking on another job so that I could support myself and my family, and the bishop was upset that I refused to do any more service for the Church on the grounds that I simply didn’t have the time. I guess the bishop either didn’t understand or didn’t care that working sixty hours a week while taking eighteen upper level college classes did not leave me any time.
For reasons that I don’t have time to go into in this episode, I eventually left the Mormon Church. If you are interested and want to learn more about my reasons for leaving Mormonism, I went into great detail about it in previous episodes. After I left the Mormon Church I lost all faith for several years before coming to Christ.
A while after I came to Christ I moved back to Missouri, and before I found a church to call home, I went to church with one of my family members. Before I had even taken a seat someone handed me a folder with information on the church, what they believe and how to join the church.
After the worship music the preacher got up and started laying on the guilt thick in order to get the people to give generously as the collection plate was passed around. As soon as the collection plate started its journey through the congregation the ushers got up and locked the doors. Being locked into a building immediately puts me on edge, and my first thought was how poorly things would go if there was a fire. I am not a lawyer, but I highly suspect that it is not legal to keep people against their will and demand they give money in order to be released.
Once everyone had a chance to put something into the collection plate they took it in the back and counted it, and then passed it again. The pastor said that God had told him he had to raise a specific dollar amount that Sunday and that he would keep passing the plate until the goal was reached, and that the doors would remain locked until they reached it. When the second offering had been counted they decided they still did not have enough money and passed the collection plate again for the third time.
I had no intention of giving to that church, and was determined not to when they demanded it. While the plate was being passed for the second or third time I briefly read the papers I was given about the church. The part in the pamphlet that really caught my attention was the line that said to be a member of the church you had to commit to giving a minimum of 10% of your income and had to show bank statements or other financial records to prove that you were giving a full 10% of your income. After that there was a few paragraphs about how blessed a person would be if they gave money to the church and the condemnation they would be under if they did not. Looking up from my pamphlet I scanned the crowd and noticed that none of the people looked overly blessed financially or with health, and many were obviously poor and in ill health. As with many other religious organizations, that church was clearly exploiting people.
I am not sure if the money people threw into the collection plate was part of the 10% they were required to donate to the church or if it was in addition to that amount, but I suspect that it was in addition to the tithing because there is no accurate way to be given credit for the donation if you are just throwing money into the plate.
It is a gift of God
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast,” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
There are a lot of problems with associating giving money to religions and being blessed in this life or with salvation after this life, but I want to talk about three of them. In my opinion, the worst part about the prosperity gospel or any supposed gospel that promises salvation that is in any way dependent upon us giving money to the church is that it falsely puts salvation in our hands, as if it were something we can earn, instead of leaving it in the hands of Jesus where it rightly belongs. Tithing is a form of works, and the Bible teaches us that our best works are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) and therefore is not a currency that could buy us anything, especially not salvation. The Bible clearly teaches that we do good works because we are saved, we aren’t saved because we do good works.
The Bible plainly teaches that we are saved by the grace of God as a gift and is not something we can earn. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast,” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
“He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,” (Titus 3:5).
Paul went so far as to say that if we could be saved by the law, any of the law, including tithing, than Christ died in vain. “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" (Galatians 2:21).
The next big issue with conflating righteousness with wealth is that it leads people to the false conclusion that if a person is poor financially than they must be sinful or lacking in faith. A lot of people believe that because Abraham and Solomon were blessed with vast wealth that it is God’s will that all of those who follow him will be rich as well, but that is simply not true. There are many righteous and faithful people who are not rich, and as you no doubt recall from the Bible, Solomon was not very righteous most of his life and did many things that were not pleasing to God.
We have no evidence that any of the apostles were wealthy, and there is an abundance of evidence that they gave up everything they had to follow Jesus and were never rewarded with wealth or comfort. In fact, Jesus even warned the apostles that their lives would not be easy and said, “In this life you will have trouble,” (John 16:33). When Saul was converted and became Paul the Apostle God said to Ananias about him, “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name,” (Acts 9:16). God did not say, “I will show him how much money and comfort I will give him because of his faith.” Paul suffered for the rest of his life and died a painful death because of his faith.
All of the apostles were beaten and shamed for the name of Christ and after they were arrested and beaten the Bible tells us, “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name,” (Acts 5:41).
There a lot of righteous people who are poor and a lot of wealthy who are sinful, and it is wrong to judge people’s righteousness or their faith based on the amount of money in their bank accounts, the size of their house, their influence or their popularity. Longing for wealth can also lead to sin, as we read in 1 Timothy 6:9-10, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”
The third issue with teaching that our earthly blessings depend upon how much we give is that we are not promised material wealth as a reward for our faith or for money we donate to a church. Sure, some people are blessed with riches, but not everyone. John the Baptist who lived in the desert wearing camel fur and eating wild honey and locusts was so righteous that Jesus said of him, “A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist,” (Matthew 11:9,11).
Jesus seams to indicate that those of us who serve God will not be blessed in this world or given any benefits above those who don’t love him and don’t live righteous lives because he said, “He [meaning God] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous,” (Matthew 5:45).
When the poor widow threw her two copper coins, all the money she had, into the donation box at the temple Jesus commented on her faith and said it exceeded that of the pharisees, but he said nothing about material blessings that would follow because of her faith and the Bible gives us no indication that this woman became wealthy as a result, and for all we know, she might have starved to death while living on the streets.
It is illogical to assume that because God blesses some in some way he will bless all that same way, just as it is illogical to assume that all people would have the same talents or be able to serve God in the same way. It is also important to remember that what we get from God is a gift and can’t be purchased and to think that if we pay money to the church that God has to bless us is the same as thinking that we paid for a service and now God is obligated to provide it to us. We owe God everything and he owes us nothing, and we can’t make him bless us because we foolishly give more money than we can afford to some man made organization that claims God told them to tell you to give your money to.
In the Bible we read of a man who saw Peter healing and doing other things through the power of God and asked to buy that power, but he did not get the response he wanted.
Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin,” (Acts 8:20-23).
Just like the man who thought he could buy the power of God, some people are convinced that by giving money to a church they can buy healing or other blessings from God, but it does not work that way. No where in the Bible did Jesus ever ask for a donation or any money, he only asked for faith.
As I said before, it is a good thing to give money to a church or other religious organization if they are doing good with it, but we should not assume that we will be blessed with wealth or anything else for doing so. It is not a sin to question where the money goes because there are many people who will misuse money, especially if it comes in great quantities and there is no oversight or accountability.
I give money to the church that I attend because I want to and not because I am required to, and I try to never give money in a way that I will get credit for it, that is not the point, I just anonymously put it in the collection plate, which is only passed once by the way. There is also a great deal of accountability in the church I attend and a few times a year we have a business meeting where the members are told where every dollar is spent, and before any new budget items are approved, including raises for the staff, the congregation must vote on it.